Wednesday, June 22, 2011

That was then and this is then

Me, about age 4, at our Baldwin Park home.
Marty used to scream over the back fence, "Damn it, Bab'r, has you got a cookie?" Bab'r was Barbara, my mother. Marty was three years old. My mother had an aversion to country music and anything she thought trashy.

Once we'd moved away, we heard that Marty, by that time a scofflaw of five or so, had climbed into his father's gasoline tanker truck, released the hand brake and collided with the dairy at the end of the street. The good news, no explosion or great bodily harm to himself. The not as good news, there was nothing in the story to reassure the neighbors that whatever came next would not be worse.

At our new house, the one I lived in until leaving home at 18, my closest friend had two brothers, considerably older than we were, one of whom got into a scuffle at the local Bob's Big Boy Drive-in and ended up grabbing a deputy's gun out of his holster. No one was shot but what a lot of gossip at school and on the block. The same brother was later in a nearly-fatal motorcycle crash and used to scream at me about how he was almost "...pushing up daisies." I was glad not to have an angry, outlaw sort of brother, yet the time came when that was exactly the kind of man to whom I was doomed to be attracted. I am grateful to report surviving and recovering from that affliction.

Recently seeking a long-time chum, I visited the website dedicated to our high school graduating class. Our 50th reunion will be held next year. The looking resulted in an exchange of e-mails with one of the organizers whom I've known since grade school. He had information about students and staff from Longfellow Elementary. It was a pleasure to remember with him our town, our friends, the streets they used to live on...the first girl he kissed, a dog that bit me, when we discovered rock and roll. In the give-and-take of those memories, I felt my external self to be home to all the younger versions of me whom I could see clearly going about their six-year-old, eight-year-old, ten-year-old lives. I could feel in the center of my chest a connection to those not-vanished, nested like Russian dolls, variously-sized girls that I had been and, somehow, still was.

What to make of it, I'm not sure. For now it is enough to sit with the knowledge as I try and gain a wider perspective. It feels significant, the awareness of both holding and being our memories. There is an element, like a sacred trust, the grace of which allows us to act as both curators and exhibits in the museum of self.

20 comments:

susan t. landry said...

what a gorgeous concept, and so beautifully described. i have always loved those "babushka" dolls...and i like very, very much the idea that all my former selves, the good the bad the out-of-my-fucking-mind selves are nestled, cherished even, inside me. some may yet again want to see the light of day....

xo
susan

Vespersparrow said...

Curator and exhibits in the museum of self. Yes, that's just how it is, Marylinn, and you are so beautifully Zen and accepting of all of those nested dolls, so vivid, still running their eight-year old and ten-year old legs through the old neighborhood, chasing dreams as delicate as puffs the dandelion leaves behind. I was just in a state that this post made me cry. Thank you for those tears. xo

Robert the Skeptic said...

That is an interesting concept to attempt to visualize - were there a museum of "me", what would it contain? Maybe the crystal set I made, or the vehicles pounded out of ends of 2 x 4s and nails I filled my pockets with picked up from those scattered on the floors of construction sites? Maybe my cool Tonka trucks no longer made, or the "girlie" magazine I was motivated by adolescent lust to risk purchasing from the smoke shop. A museum - interesting.

Laoch of Chicago said...

Nicely expressed. Going to such a reunion would be such a kaleidoscopic psychological experience, I think.

Kathleen said...

Beautiful nesting image and reflection on all this, and you had me laughing from the start. Now pondering.

I used to give writing students a "museum of..." assignment, and their task, to motivate their research, organization, and excellent writing, was to choose the contents of a particular museum, fill it, describe it, and say why! They did a great job, as there was always a bit of "me" in each museum choice!

Thanks for this great entry!

Miggy Angel said...

Marylinn, this is just flat-out beautiful, especially that last line. Killer

Bodes well for the short fiction you said you're pondering resuming.

Hope all well

Miggy

Erin in Morro Bay said...

Our neighbourhood terror on Angelino Avenue was Vicky. She never hijacked a gasoline tanker, but we were all deathly afraid of her antics. Her mother, however, made excellent cookies. So our never-ending quandary was to hold to our pre-teen ideals and stay away from her or give-in, go along and get some of those cookies!
Erin

Marylinn Kelly said...

Susan - I think all the selves want to see the light of day, to be acknowledged and, in some cases, forgiven, honored with compassion for what they endured, the lengths to which they had to go to hold on. Some have been locked in the attic...shame does that...we can now appreciate their beauty. Thank you. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Melissa - Tears of loss, but also tears of reclamation, discovery, I hope. They are all still here, we are they. I'm off, the dandelions call. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Robert - My sense is we are not only those objects or moments, but the selves of those times, involved in those activities...your hands, I think, still know building the crystal set and picking up the nails, as I'm sure your nerves know the purchase of the magazine. Some writers feel memoir an unworthy topic and it can be too self-involved, but we bring something of ourselves to any story we tell; something within draws us to what resonates.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Laoch - Thank you. I haven't been to a reunion since the 10th...I have difficulty believing that the 50th is nearly here. We have traveled so long and so far from those times and I feel such compassion for whatever the others' journeys have been, knowing so well my own. It will be a unique experience.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Kathleen - Thank you. I like the museum assignment, so many places to go with that...the first thought is a Museum of Eating Habits (I could not possibly say why), like always biting the bottom segment off a piece of candy corn first. I am my childhood as well as all obsessions and compulsions.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Miggy - All is well. Thank you so much for visiting and commenting. Since reading it, I've carried the gold-toothed image from your post like a kick-start. What gleaming treasure we find on the briefest forays into bloglandia.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Erin - We had no mixed emotions that I can recall about Marty or his family but I can think of other children over the years...it seems moral ambiguity was something we became acquainted with at early ages. xo

Antares Cryptos said...

It is astonishing how easily we remember our younger selves and how connected we are to a less mature time of discovery.

I'll have to agree with everyone else, the museum of self is brilliant. Both exhibitor and curator :)

Marylinn Kelly said...

Antares Cryptos - Thank you...to consider that we carry, in our minds or perhaps in our very cells, all that we have ever been or done or known, whether we can access it or not, is almost too much to ponder. Yet at the same time, so rich and wonderful. This is quite a ride, isn't it? :D

Angella Lister said...

This is just stunningly expressed and so much where ivfind myself this day. Thank you.

KleinsteMotte said...

I love the ending but not sure how the beginning ties in. Never went to any reunion for myself, only one as a teacher of others.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Angella - Thank you...I seem to become more and more aware of how past and present fold over each other, interweave, are, somehow, the same. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

KleinsteMotte - Well, how does the beginning tie in? The best I can say is that a narrative starts someplace and ends up another; sometimes I do a better job with linking the parts. I probably should have had a dividing line...roughly connected, not a smooth segue.